Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Semantics, She Wrote

One of the benefits of running a books blog is that you get sent free books all the time, which is absolutely terrific. I received a copy of Aifric Campbell’s THE SEMANTICS OF MURDER last year, when it was first published, but – the demands on everyone’s reading time being what they are – I simply didn’t get around to reading it. Happily, circumstance has forced my hand, as I’m moderating a panel at next week’s Dublin Writers’ Festival, doing my best not to get myself blinded as Aifric Campbell, Ed O’Loughlin and Peter Murphy dazzle their audience.
  Anyway, being the consummate pro that I am (koff), I read THE SEMANTICS OF MURDER this week, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nice to have a right good novel-of-ideas to mull over, the kind that you’d read in two days if only you weren’t breaking off to stare out the window every five minutes going, ‘Hmmmm, that’s interesting …’. Example thereof:
“The truth was that creative writers were more qualified to explain humanity than psychiatrists and philosophers. This was what Levi the chemist had eventually realised, that he would have to resort to fiction and poetry to communicate the horror of Auschwitz. The psychologists and psychoanalysts who had staked out their territorial claim knew no more than the great novelists …” – Aifric Campbell, THE SEMANTICS OF MURDER
  I’m currently a third of the way through Peter Murphy’s JOHN THE REVELATOR, and enjoying that hugely too. There’s a beautiful narrative voice that puts me in mind of Pat McCabe’s THE BUTCHER BOY, and a whimsical note that suggests a tincture of Flann O’Brien. All of which is most excellent …
  As for Ed O’Loughlin’s NOT UNTRUE & NOT UNKIND, clickety-click here
  That panel, by the way, takes place next Wednesday, June 3rd, at 6pm at the Project Arts Centre. Tickets are €12 / €10. Of which, sadly, I don’t see a red cent. Boo …
  In other Dublin Writers’ Festival News, the impossibly gorgeous Arlene Hunt moderates a panel composed of Val McDermid and Kate Summerscale on Sunday, June 7th, at 5pm at The Abbey, which is quite posh for crime writers, but there you go. Val McDermid is plugging her latest novel, whatever that happens to be, while Kate Summerscale will be talking about THE SUSPICIONS OF MR WHICHER, which I’ve yet to read but I’m hearing great things about … Again, tickets are €12 / €10, which is a bargain for The Abbey. Plus, you get Arlene Hunt, and very possibly Val McDermid on a feminist rant. What more could any red-blooded male want?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Boys Will Wreck Your House, Girls Will Wreck Your Head

How good is John Connolly, really? Well, apparently he can even make Kevin Costner look good. JC is currently suffering for his art somewhere in Maine, although the early news on The New Daughter, based on the NOCTURNES short story of the same name and starring Costner (right, spooky kid in background) and Pan’s Labyrinth starlet Ivana Baquero, should take the sting out of the not-so-splendid isolation. Quoth JC:
The New Daughter, the first movie to be made from my work, is nearing completion. Last week, John Travis, the movie’s very talented screenwriter, saw it for the first time in a small screening room, or at least saw 98 per cent of it, as the last fine-tuning is still being done.
  John, who is a harsh judge of his own work, emerged hugely enthused. I’m sure that he won’t mind some of his comments being reproduced here:
“It’s an adult, very well acted and directed, beautifully shot movie with a real sense of dread the whole way through ... In fact, it’s almost a little Spanish.” … Or “… maybe it’s like David Cronenberg directed it. It’s kind of like A History of Violence, but with monsters instead mobsters ...”
  A Spanish psychological horror flick directed by David Cronenberg? Colour us intrigued …

Git Along, Li’l Dogie: Ye Olde Monthly Round-Up

Being a pick-‘n’-mix of CAP posts for the month of May. To wit:

Alex Barclay’s (right) BLOOD RUNS COLD wins the crime writing prize at the Irish Book Awards.

Alan Glynn’s forthcoming WINTERLAND gets very impressive pre-pub blurbs from Ken Bruen, John Connolly, Adrian McKinty and Jason Starr.

Why don’t Irish crime-and-thriller readers read Irish-set crime and thrillers?

John Banville calls Declan Burke’s currently-under-consideration novel BAD FOR GOOD “a cross between Flann O’Brien and Raymond Chandler”, causing said Burke to spontaneously combust in oleaginous flames of smug self-congratulation.

Ken Bruen is making more movies: ONCE WERE COPS has been optioned, and – whisper it – possibly AMERICAN SKIN too.

John Connolly wins the inaugural Sexiest Irish Crime Writer Award, whether he wants to or not.

LOCK DOWN will be Sean Black’s debut when it’s published in July. How come all the pseudonyms are ‘Black’ these days?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Great Scott; and, A Cannes-Do Attitude

I’ve mentioned before in these pages that I’m a fan of Scott Phillips (right), and that THE ICE HARVEST was one of the finest books I read last year, of any type or stripe. Anyway, Scott was one of the writers I picked (on) to send a manuscript of The Novel Formerly Known As A GONZO NOIR (we’re calling it BAD FOR GOOD from here on in), and he got back to me yesterday with this:
“BAD FOR GOOD is a harrowing and yet hilarious examination of the gradual disintegration of a writer’s personality, as well as a damned fine noir novel about an evil hospital orderly and his even more evil twin orderly. Burke has outdone himself this time; it’s a hell of a read.” – Scott Phillips, author of THE ICE HARVEST
  Which is all kinds of nice. But then, after meeting him at the Baltimore Bouchercon, Scott Phillips was all kinds of nice too. I picked up a copy of his COTTONWOOD in a second-hand bookshop last week, it being impossible to get first-hand here in Ireland, and I’ve tucked it away with two or three others for my holiday reading next month. Because you know how it is – with space and time so short, you don’t want to bring any dud books on holidays, you want to know the books you have with you will deliver …
  Anyway, the story with TNFKAAGN / BFG is that it went out to some publishers late last week, so if you have any spare chickens lying around, and a predilection for the occasional outbreak of voodoo, this would be a good time to start sacrificing livestock and rattling dem bones and whatnot …
  In other news, I received a rather intriguing text message last Sunday morning, which ran in its entirety thusly: “Hi Declan. In Cannes reading books and scripts. Loving THE BIG O. Who has the film rights? You?”
  Now that’s what I call a Cannes-do attitude. And then I awoke from a feverish dream and … Actually, no. I really did get that message. All the way from Cannes. I know the guy – obviously, or he wouldn’t have my phone number – but he really is a commissioning editor with a film production company. Which is nice.
  Incidentally, I’m sure other writers get the kind of vibe that runs along the lines of, “Hey, I read your book, it was really cinematic.” Like the biggest compliment you can pay a book is that it reads like a movie. I usually say, “I know, I wrote it that way.” And they go, “Really?” And you think, God, why wasn’t I born with a sick compulsion to stack supermarket shelves instead?

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Ed O’Loughlin

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...

What crime novel would you most like to have written?
THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Mr Kurtz.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Viz comics.

Most satisfying writing moment?
The joke which only you get, and which you subsequently, regretfully, cut out of the final draft.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
DRACULA by Bram Stoker.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Don’t know yet – I’m still new.

The pitch for your next book is …?
The desperate race to retrieve a weapons-grade washing machine from inside a near-future dystopia.

Who are you reading right now?
Anne Enright.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write – if God appears to you, you’re a prophet, and prophets make top dollar in the self-help market.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Online discounts available.

Ed O’Loughlin’s debut novel is NOT UNTRUE & NOT UNKIND

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Espresso Machine

As all three regular readers of CAP will know, I’ve been off the smokes since Sunday, which is the longest period of non-smoking I’ve had for at least 20 years – although I am using nicotine replacement patches, so I feel like a bit of a fraud. Anyway, the point being, I may not be thinking all that clearly at the moment, so bear with me if this post is ludicrously na├»ve …
  I’ve just been writing a newspaper feature on the Espresso Book Machines (right), which are destined to revolutionise bookselling by virtue of their print-on-demand simplicity. You walk into a bookstore, ask for a particular book, and the folks there don’t have it? No problem, they’ll just print it off for you while-u-wait (and have an espresso, possibly). As I understand it, the quality of book that results is top-notch …
  At the moment, EBMs are retailing at €120,000, so it might be a while yet before your friendly independent bookstore gets one in. The flip side of the cost is that, once you have an EBM installed, then your storage / warehousing costs are cut to virtually nil, you’ll never have to send a customer away empty-handed again, and you are – in terms of stock, at least – finally operating on a level playing field with the chain-store operators.
  Happy days for indie bookstores, and especially those with an extra €120,000 lying around.
  Here’s what I’m wondering, though. If the EBM takes off – and it should, really, and not least because it’s environmentally friendly, reducing transport costs, and book pulping, etc., – then it’s very much the case that mainstream publishers will be making their books available to the public at large via print-on-demand EBMs. Correct? And if this is the case, then what will be the difference between, say, Random House and Lulu?
  There’s the quality issue, of course, because self-published / vanity published books tend to lack a certain rigour the discerning reader expects. But this isn’t always the case. I co-published THE BIG O with Hag’s Head back in 2007, paying half the costs, which is as close as it gets to vanity publishing without putting an actual mirror on the cover, and yet – if the reviews detailed down the left side of this page are any measure – the quality was fine and dandy-o by most readers.
  So, leaving aside the quality issue for a moment, what will be the difference between Lulu and Random House once the print-on-demand EBMs gain a foothold in the market?
  I mean, if I’m a writer, with a novel ready to go, then what’s to stop me establishing a tiny publishing house (Hubris Books, say), publishing the novel via Lulu, and then selling it through a combination of Amazon and EBM? Yes, I’m absorbing all the costs – but then, look at all the costs I’m side-stepping (printing, transport, distribution, returns, pulping). Plus, once Lulu prints off its first copy, it need never print off another copy again, leaving the heavy lifting to the EBMs.
  What you’re lacking, of course, is the kind of promotion and visibility an established and respected publishing house, like Random House, can bring to the table. But then, these days most writers are like me anyway, generating whatever limited publicity they can themselves, while the likes of Dan Brown and John Grisham hoover up the advertising spend.
  Of course, the new technology isn’t going to put big publishers out of business, which is a good thing, because good publishers bring good books to market, which is just fine by me. But the new technology might well foster a DIY spirit among writers akin to that which fuelled the punk movement in music circa 1975, which allowed independent voices be heard, voices that had something relevant worth saying that the mainstream at the time wasn’t listening to.
  The music industry hasn’t changed a whole lot over the last 30 years or so, although it is quickly adapting now to the new technologies, but I find it hard to believe that, without the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Buzzcocks and Joy Division, for example, we’d have got (for example) the non-mainstream sounds of some of my personal faves, such as Tindersticks, the Pixies, Antony and the Johnsons …
  Will the new technologies allow for more independent voices to emerge from the publishing industry? Will the industry celebrate and nurture such voices? Will it be a confrontational, adversarial relationship? Or is there a mutually beneficial balance to be struck between the established presences of mainstream publishing and their more indie, left-field brethren?
  Only time, that notoriously doity rat, will tell …

UPDATE: Lightning Source today revealed its new EBM strategy for Books Expo America – clickety-click here for more details. Or you could just roll it there, Collette …

A Harsh Touch Of FROST

A busy chap, yon Eoin McNamee. Not only does he write tough crime narratives under his own name, and thrillers under the psuedonym of John Creed, he also finds time to write ‘The Navigator’ YA novels. THE FROST CHILD is the third and concluding part of The Navigator Trilogy, with the blurb elves wibbling thusly:
Twice the Harsh have tried to destroy time, and twice Owen and the Resisters have banded together to stop them. In CITY OF TIME, Owen killed the Harsh king, and now the Harsh are hungry for revenge. Their massive fleet is ready to set sail on the sea of time and hunt down the wily Navigator. In this third and final adventure, the Navigator and his friends use every last ounce of bravery and endurance to fight the toughest battle ever. As Owen searches for a solution, he travels through time to meet his father and grandfather, and discovers that the mysterious Frost Child holds the key to the power of the Harsh.
  Given his publishing schedule, it’s no wonder McNamee wants the Harsh to destroy time. If those Harsh chaps ever need a safe haven while they figure out how to finally annihilate time, or at the very least squeeze an extra hour or two into the day, they’re welcome at CAP Towers any time …

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Pseudonym

Yet another week, yet another Irish crime fiction writer … Sean Black’s debut LOCK DOWN is published by Transworld Ireland in July (smashing cover, right), and already it’s attracted some heavyweight big-ups. To wit:
“Sean Black writes like a punch in the gut. Funny, tough, and furiously paced, LOCK DOWN explodes off the page.” – Jesse Kellerman

“A thrilling debut that locks you in and loads up the tension.” – Simon Kernick
  Mmmmm, nice. So what’s it all about, then? Quoth the blurb elves:
It may be Christmas in New York, but for ex-soldier turned elite bodyguard Ryan Lock it’s business as usual: his mission is to protect one of America’s most ruthless businessmen. A bloody shoot-out - suddenly gunshots ring out. People run for cover. Innocent people are mown down. Amid the chaos, Lock’s hunt for the killers turns into an explosive game of cat and mouse. A deadly secret - Lock’s search for the truth takes him from the rooftops of a New York skyscraper to a heavily fortified warehouse on the Hudson where he confronts one of the world’s most dangerous women. As the clock ticks towards midnight on New Year’s Eve, all routes into and out of Manhattan are sealed, and Lock realizes that not only is his own life in terrible danger but so are the lives of millions of others ...
  Sean Black isn’t actually Irish, as it happens, and he isn’t even ‘Sean Black’, but he lives here, he sounds as if he could be Irish, and we’re not overly fussy and / or pedantic about such things, especially since the Good Friday Agreement pretty much says you can be Irish if you close your eyes and wish to be Irish whilst clicking your red kitten-heels together.
  Anyway, that’s Sean Black, Benjamin Black and Ingrid Black … all Irish crime writers, and all pseudonyms. Isn’t it time we had a pseudonymic White? Eh?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Down Those Green Streets A Man Must Go …

I’ve quit smoking, folks. It’s been on the cards for quite a while, but I finally took the plunge yesterday, and at this point it’s been almost 36 hours without a smoke. Not that I’m counting … Actually, I feel pretty good; I’m guessing there’s a euphoric feel to it in the initial stages that keeps you buzzing. But apart from some craving pangs and the occasional brain-slip where I find myself reaching for the makings without really thinking about what I’m doing, I’m okay with it all. In fact, I feel pretty damn good about it. I’m sure that won’t last forever, though … If there’s any ex-smokers out there with any advice and support to offer, I’d love to hear it.
  In other news, I’ve been thinking strongly about starting a new blog. Crime Always Pays, as all three regular readers will know, started off as a blog about “the latest news, reviews, gossip and slander about the dicks, dames and desperados of (mostly) Irish crime fiction”, said news et al providing a platform for some news of my own once in a while.
  Lately, though, and you’ve probably already noticed this, Crime Always Pays has become very Declan Burke-heavy, which really isn’t very fair at all. Not that anyone’s getting fat off the three molecules of oxygen publicity that CAP provides, but still, fair’s fair. Anyway, what I’m thinking of doing is banging up another blog, called Green Streets, as in, “Down those green streets a man (or woman) must go …”, and making that one the news / gossip / slander venue for Irish crime writing, while I toddle on with Crime Always Pays as a personal blog.
  It probably all sounds a bit messy, but in the long run I want to establish Green Streets as an on-line magazine, and a proper website, for Irish crime writing – novels, movies, journalism, non-fiction / true crime, and theatre.
  As it will mean more work for yours truly, I’d hugely appreciate it if anyone out there wants to volunteer to lend a hand. Also, if you’re a writer with a functioning blog or regularly updated website – Dec Hughes? Updates once a year do not a blogger make – drop me a line with the url at the usual address, or in the comment box. If you’re an Irish crime writer with an idea for a blog post / regular feature, please feel free to get in touch. Put it this way – if every Irish crime writer out there at the moment was to contribute a single post, I wouldn’t have to lift a finger for about two months.
  One post every two months? Surely everyone’s capable of that …

Ken They Do It? Yes They Ken …

There’s a story about Sir Kenneth of Bruen (right) that may or may not be apocryphal, even though he tells it himself, about the time he did a reading alongside a well-known British author. The lady in question was first up on the podium, and held up a copy of her latest novel, and a copy of Ken’s, which latter was noticeably slimmer than her own doorstop. “That,” she said, indicating her novel, “is what I call value for money.” Cue hoots of laughter, the jape being done in the spirit of joie de vivre, etc. Ken being up next, he held up the same two books, and indicated the well-known British author’s novel. “That,” he said, “is what one of my books looks like before I take out all the crap …”
  Ken’s books are, of course, so stripped down they’re in danger of being done for public indecency. Which may or may not explain why he’s bagged so many movie options recently: the novels are so sparely written, they are – c.f. James M. Cain – practically movie scripts even before some cack-handed screenwriter gets his grubby mitts on them.
  As Gerard Brennan reports over at CSNI – where he scoops me yet again, natch – Ken’s ONCE WERE COPS has just been picked up by yet another Tinseltown outfit, which makes it three novels he’s got in the movie pipeline now: BLITZ, with Jude Law on board; LONDON BOULEVARD, with Colin Farrell and Kiera Knightley; and ONCE WERE COPS. I’m also hearing rumours that an Irish production company have picked up THE GUARDS, and have optioned the entire Jack Taylor series, with a view to committing the battered bard of Galway to celluloid.
  The Big Question: Has the long overdue arrival of the Jack Taylor novels on the movie-making scene come too late for the man who was at one point so hotly tipped to play Taylor, David Soul?
  The Bigger Question: Who should play Jack Taylor in the movies?

UPDATE: a little bird gets in touch all the way from Galway to say that I should keep my shell-like to the ground for news on AMERICAN SKIN getting a movie deal … in, like, the next day or so. Crikey! They’ll have to invent a new Oscar at this rate. “And the Oscar for Best Movie Adapted from a Ken Bruen Novel is …”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

That Pesky ‘Sexiest Irish Crime Writer’ Poll: The Envelope Please, Whoopi …

I’m away this weekend, so I’m writing this post in advance, so bear with me if the details are just a bit skewy, but with John Connolly leading the field by about three lengths (Oo-er, Missus, etc.) with only a day’s voting left, it’s safe to say – trumpet parp please, maestro – that Lord John Connolly (right, in louche mode) is officially the Sexiest Irish Crime Writer!
  Now, between you and me, there were sharp practices underpinning the win, given that Lord JC linked to CAP from the John Connolly interweb-forum malarkey, suggesting that forumites might want to vote for him (and me, as it happens, although precious few did, the ungrateful sods) – but there was nothing in the rules to prevent anyone from utilising the interweb to boost their vote, so we have no choice but to award JC his gong. The official presentation may or may not take place at The Dublin Bookshop, Grafton Street in Dublin, on June 24th, when JC officially launches the latest Charlie Parker novel, THE LOVERS, or at No Alibis in Belfast on June 26th, when JC launches THE LOVERS with Stuart Neville, who’ll be launching THE TWELVE. (For details of all John Connolly’s Irish and UK tour dates, clickety-click here …)
  Anyway, the rather manly Adrian McKinty was second in the Sexiest Crime Writers poll, with a very creditable 17% of the vote (by comparison with Connolly’s 42%), while the gorgeous Alex Barclay came in third with 12%. At the time of writing, Your Humble Host was in fourth place, with 8%, mainly because I couldn’t work out how to multi-vote for myself, while the delectable Arlene Hunt and the equally delectable Brian McGilloway were tied on fifth with 7%.
  So there you have it. John Connolly is the inaugural winner of the Sexiest Irish Crime Writer Award. Three cheers, two stools and a resounding huzzah! Of course, things could have been very different had ‘Dreamy’ Gene Kerrigan not ruled himself out of the running early on …
  That Gene Kerrigan, eh? Sigh …